All week it became obvious that the pressure on the Old Boys to perform was having an effect on them.
Like many well-known professional teams who endure decades without cup wins, like the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs, Maple Leafs and Hibernian FC, Old Boys were coping with personal doubts, group anxiety, press interest and scrutiny. A call went out to Antonio Alonso for some guidance from his Bikram yoga associates in India for calming and deep breathing exercises. Team reporter Fraser Hope and the Driftwood’s editorial board had emphatically decided not to follow yellow-press tactics and “name” and “shame” those players in a naked attempt to sensationalize the situation for increased circulation purposes.
A depleted team roster was bolstered by the return of Wile E. Coyote, or should that be Ben “The Road Runner” Cooper, back from the Baja, to create havoc down the wings or anywhere else on the Frances Kelsey school field against the Duncan 48s.
As they say in horse racing circles, the ground was holding and ideal for Old Boys’ fast movement and slick passing. Unfortunately, barely three minutes into the game, fast movement and slick passing by Duncan saw a race for the through ball, which cannoned off goalkeeper Henry Braak into the path of the attacker, who smartly passed for an easy tap-in and 1-0 lead.
Continued Duncan pressure kept Old Boys penned in their own third of the field, only relieved by great goalkeeping from Braak.
Both teams left the field amazed by the scoreline. Duncan was amazed they could miss so many goals and Old Boys were amazed at Braak’s heroics in preventing a nightmare. With the resilience built up by success in their last five games, Old Boys began the second half as if an against-the-odds comeback was in the cards. But Duncan again controlled the midfield and a misplaced pass out of defence was latched onto by a Duncan striker who sent a screamer of a shot into the far corner of the net, leaving Braak stranded. Duncan led 2-0.
Would the Old Boys crumble now that the dam had been broached a second time? There was mostly one-way traffic on the field, culminating in an extraordinary sequence of three successive corners in which “Captain Stalwart” Tweddle cleared off the line to thwart Duncan. It was a natural hat trick likely never witnessed in the history of football: one off the head, the foot and the knee! You had to be there to witness history in the making. Both teams enjoyed the comic nature of the events.
Spurred on by this “great escape,” a Toynbee shot, a product of timing, direction and power with a hint of spin, curved around the defender beyond the keeper’s reach for a goal labelled as soon as it left his foot.
The “comeback” cry resounded around the field as the Old Boys rallied for one final push for a tying goal and a measure of respect. As is the way of things, in an all-out attack the Old Boys left themselves vulnerable at the back and in the dying moments a thunderous shot gave Braak no chance of any last-minute heroics for a final 3-1 victory to Duncan.
Some measure of satisfaction was the news on arrival at the ferry terminal that Colin Walde’s U-18s had defeated Cowichan in the Lower Island Soccer Association District Cup. Salt Spring had come back from being 3-0 down, to 6-3 down to earn a splendid 7-6 comeback victory.
The boys next meet Vantreights in Esquimalt on Sunday, provided team members travelling to watch the Whitecaps play Toronto FC on Saturday make it to kickoff!